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Netbooks didnÂ’t have a lot going for them, but they had a clear purpose. Their cramped keyboards, dull displays, and feeble processors couldnÂ’t detract from their eminent usefulness as fast note takers and convenient web browsers on the move. SonyÂ’s Xperia tablets Â— and tablets in general Â— have the opposite problem: theyÂ’re blessed with all the advantages of high design and precise engineering, but none of the purpose of the humble netbook.
This year, Sony is addressing that issue by pairing its latest Xperia Z4 Tablet with a keyboard dock and essentially creating the netbook of the future. ItÂ’s a 10-inch ultraportable machine that runs Microsoft Office and promises long battery life, and it has the potential to serve as AndroidÂ’s answer to AppleÂ’s MacBook and MicrosoftÂ’s Surface computers. Can the addition of a keyboard give real meaning to the existence of yet another splendidly thin and powerful Android tablet?
In spite of its name inflation, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is actually the successor to last yearÂ’s Xperia Z2 Tablet, and very little has changed in the way it looks and feels. This is still one of the best-engineered electronic devices on the market, feeling featherweight and durable at the same time. ThatÂ’s is an important and powerful combination, as it allows you to toss the tablet around like a literal notebook, not having to worry about the added fragility of it being a piece of high-tech equipment.
Waterproof once again, the Z4 Tablet has evolved to now also include a capless USB port, removing the annoying flappy cover of its predecessor. Sony has also taken out its engineering razor and somehow found a few spare millimeters and grams to shave off the tabletÂ’s weight and thickness. In response to user feedback bemoaning the vastness of the bezels around the screen, Sony has shrunken those down as well. Such a tale of small incremental improvements is characteristic of SonyÂ’s Xperia development history, and itÂ’s how weÂ’ve arrived at excellent devices like the Xperia Z3 and Z4 smartphones and the present Z4 Tablet. I look all around the device, investigate every edge and surface for imperfection, and find none. But I also donÂ’t find anything (other than the more convenient USB port) that I couldnÂ’t get from last yearÂ’s model.
Sony will tell you that the Z4 TabletÂ’s biggest upgrades are contained within, with a new 2560 x 1600 display stepping up the resolution from 1920 x 1200, and the Snapdragon 810 processor replacing the earlier 801. Good luck trying to identify where those changes make a difference, though, as I sure couldnÂ’t. As much of a believer as I am in high-resolution displays, SonyÂ’s upgrade here is from high to very high, and, like the mountaintops of Everest obscured by cloud cover, I just canÂ’t see the difference. Performance is similarly unremarkable: this is a fast and responsive Android device, but thatÂ’s no longer a novelty like it once was.
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